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Why use distortion?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by TOM274, Apr 10, 2010.

  1. TOM274


    Dec 17, 2007
    From those isolated bass track on youtube I've noticed a lot of rock band bass players like geddy, trujillo, Jason newsted etc. use distortion. Why is that? does it make the bass more audible?
    Geddy said in an interview "A clean bass sound sometimes doesn't knit in the mix with the guitar....the right kind of distortion helps knit the over all sound together..." What is it about really? I don't get what "knit in the mix" is.
  2. rratajski

    rratajski Commercial User

    Jul 1, 2008
    Mount Laurel, NJ
    Because sometimes having a little (or a lot) of dirt in your signal sounds pleasing to the ear or compliments something in the song (vocals, g****r, rhythm section).

    "Knit in the mix" means exactly what it says...It means that sometimes a clean bass sound doesn't meld, mix, sound good, go along with, etc etc etc with the rest of the song/g****r(s).

  3. It's just another sound. Wouldn't use it all the time 'coz it just isn't suitable but I really like distortion on Classic Rock riff songs.
  4. Since the lineup of my rock band changed from 2 guitars to 1, I've been using distortion and overdrive a lot more to beef up our sound.

    I've ended up filling a double role at times, covering the bass and the rhythm guitar, freeing up our guitarist to add textural sounds over the top without losing the aggressive sound we go for.

    In the context of a denser sound, distortion on bass can be used to help blend it into the mix, creating an overall thicker, heavy sound. Certainly not appropriate in every situation, it's just another tool in the arsenal of a producer/arranger. I think this is the kind of thing that was used with Cliff Burton's bass in Metallica.
  5. I consider a tad of distortion almost required if you're in a rock band with only one guitar.

    It fills out the sound.

    I use the VT bass character series, which basically emulates a little tube growl.

    You don't want to pop the distortion to high, because it'll sound like crap unless the song is built around a distorted bass.

    I generally never go over 50%.
  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    ya, what they said. i even play oldies and us distortion all the time because a lot of those old records have the bass recorded with distortion you may not be able to notice in a mix but is very obvious when soloed. like old motown songs...people don't always realize it but jamerson's bass tracks were pretty distorted, and often not in a good way. but it sounds perfect in the mix. it does bring a certain girth to the bass that still sounds clean in the mix.
  7. René_Julien


    Jun 26, 2008
    Why is it that people say that the bass is lost in distortion?
    Then you can also say: the guitar is lost in distortion.

  8. TOM274


    Dec 17, 2007
    So that means if i use some distortion in the mix it will sound bigger than normal(clean), without turning up the volume?
  9. rratajski

    rratajski Commercial User

    Jul 1, 2008
    Mount Laurel, NJ
    Some people add a little boost in the volume to compensate for any frequency loss.
    It really depends on what type of OD, distortion, or fuzz you're using and how you have your rig EQ'd.

    With that said, you can make the mix sound bigger...it all depends the factors that I mentioned.
  10. Also, it feels so good to hear it.
  11. Vic Winters

    Vic Winters Supporting Member

    Apr 20, 2006
    Western NY
    Listen to some songs by Muse and Rage/Audioslave, especially the live versions.
  12. sometimes yes and sometimes no....

    if you have a very scooped sound or a very trinny trebly sound you can lose everything in the mix which is why some people blend with a clean sound or use two amps one distorted and one clean. on the other hand if some have ultra bassy or ultra middy content they can generally hold their own and really bring out a wall of noise in between the drums and guitar etc :)

    I tend to have a low sounding high gain OD on for the parts where my guitarist is soloing or otherwise occupied in my 3 peice band, on some songs where I need to do a wall of noise I do a clean blended with fuzz, I've found that these fill out the song quite a lot and make a nice layer of sound for the guitar to play on top of
  13. Sayclean


    Jul 26, 2009
    Nashville, TN

    I agree with this. Sometimes we have a sax, keyboard etc, but sometimes we have just a 3 piece band with female singer(guitar, bass and drums) We play blues rock classic rock etc. and I like to use the distortion as the sound of another guitar player and bass.I don't use it on every song but songs like Foghats "I just want to make love to you" - it helps fill out the song

    ZZ Top also comes to mind on this subject. Does anyone know
    What distortion/overdrive did Dusty Hill use in ZZ TOP?
  14. Unrepresented

    Unrepresented Something Borderline Offensive

    Jul 1, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    Like others have said, distortion tends to broaden the eq range of your sound, allowing for a more full sounding mix. It's helpful when you need to fill sonic space, but conversely can be a hindrance when you're trying to cut through.

    I primarily use distorted tones as a dynamic tool -- to make a heavy chorus sound heavier, more full frequencied, even if that sacrifices where the bass ends and the guitar begins.
  15. I really don't understand the question.

    You're asking why people use distortion in their sound?:confused:

    Why is it that some players use a flanger? Or a Wah pedal?...
    That's the sound that they are after. Distortion would be used when you desire a distorted sound instead of a clean sound.
  16. DrSmaggs


    Oct 15, 2003
    Endorsing Artist:
    I agree that in most cases a subtle overdrive from a Sansamp RBI or all-tube head sounds amazing.

    Think about this. Back in the day, amps would naturally distort because of their lower power, etc.

    Technology has come a long way and now we have the luxury of having a ton of overhead in our power sections and actually having a clean tone.

    There are times I want a totally fat and smooth sound and there are times I really "need" a nice warm not-too-crunchy, but-overdriven" bass tone.
  17. DrSmaggs


    Oct 15, 2003
    Endorsing Artist:
    BTW I did load in and out for Muse last night in Phoenix. (rolling their stuff in, building the stage and light rigs, etc.) I caught the end of their set and the bass tone was awesome! Even from the backstage area!

    I even got a glimpse of the bass tech's station before I got cut from the load in. One Rick and a ton of Fenders. Pretty interesting.
  18. nad

    nad 60 Cycle Humdinger Commercial User

    Sep 22, 2005
    Not Mars
    The Overlord of Nordstrand Pickups
    Why not?
  19. vegas532


    Nov 10, 2006
    Pensacola, FL.
    I told a producer buddy of mine once to use just a smidge of overdrive on the bass tones in recording to help the bass stand out in a mix. He now uses overdrive on his bass tones (even "clean" tones) 100% of the time. He hears what I've known for years, which is that a little overdrive on a bass signal adds a "bump" to a very critical point in the midrange that helps a bass punch through a mix better. If you hear one of his mixes where the bass is punching through, the bass is actually pretty dirty soloed.

    Just my $.02.
  20. refbassist


    Mar 3, 2007
    I remember reading an article abour JJ that he used to record direct to the board while turning up his input signal it gives the slightly overdiven sound.

    I have been playing on and off with distortion and it's amazing what little of it can add to your sound!!

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